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Cat, Dog, Pot-Bellied Pig? We’re Getting a Pet and I Need Advice! [Save me from myself]

Posted Nov 07 2012 11:05pm

Maybe I’ll even get inducted into the club of people who make LOL cats!

200 goldfish in a man-made pond (out of a child’s plastic swimming pool, no less!) with a little footbridge over the top covered in twinkling lights: It was supposed to be the post-card pretty entrance for a local wedding reception but ended up going down in the annals of neighborhood bad decisions as one of the worst ever. I was about 12 years old at the time so of course to my romantic-al eyes it was all love, roses and really poufy sleeves and lace bibs (it was the 90′s after all). At the end of the night, the bride and groom were trundled off to their honeymoon suite in the Anniversary Inn – which was full of theme rooms with varying levels of kinkiness! Did they get the undersea paradise grotto with the anatomically correct mermaids? It was all the older kids could talk about. (Also: what does “anatomically correct” even mean when it comes to imaginary creatures?) But my mom had other things on her mind than copulating merpeople. Those fish. Namely, what would become of them now that their magical purpose was served and their pond had reverted back to a plastic swimming pool filled with sushi bites. The dumpster out back was discussed.

My mother has always had a very gentle soul. Which is how we ended up with 200 pet fish that night. My father was not amused to come home and find every container in the house filled with water and creatures in obvious distress. Despite my mother’s ministrations, the whole escapade had been too taxing for most of them and by the next morning we were down to around 100 pets. My brother, sister and I were overjoyed and spent the day giving 100 identical goldfish unique names. By week’s end though, we were left with about 30 and our toilet had been renamed The Graveyard. (After we learned the hard way that Tupperware do not make appropriate burial containers… for many soupy reasons.) My mom bought an aquarium. It wasn’t enough. We children became experts at identifying the final stages of fish death. Eventually we were left with Red Head Fred, the lone survivor of the wedding fish massacre, who lived with us for years. He became our family’s official mascot of resilience, strength and the power of being really lucky (and anatomically correct).

Eventually we added more pets to our house. Whether it was from my mom’s inability to say no to a cute little face or because my siblings and I were super persuasive, we ended up with (and I swear I’m not making this up) 1 dog we got from a cardboard box outside the grocery store, 3 rescue cats, 2 turtles, 1 lizard, 3 rabbits (including my French Lop, Taffy, who grew so fat we could no longer take her out of the door of her kennel), 2 guinea pigs (for my baby sister), 2 newts (which I personally named Olivia and John so that when they mated they would be… Olivia Newt On John. Hold you applause, please, because when they did mate Olivia horrified us by gobbling up all her own spawn minutes after they were birthed), 6 tree frogs, 8 hermit crabs and so many fish I don’t even dare count them. And I’m betting that after my sister reads this she’ll call to remind me of all our pets that I forgot. Oh, and my mom recently came home with a new “teddy bear” puppy that is officially the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life. Meet Quincy:

So I grew up with a menagerie. My husband grew up with a dog, Misty, whom he adored. It was inevitable that we would become pet owners at some point. My original rule was that we couldn’t get anything that crapped on the floor until my children stopped crapping on the floor. Who needs a puppy when you have a toddler to chew up everything in your wallet? But with Jelly Bean now 3 – Happy Birthday on Monday, baby! – that day is arriving. Even though I’ve been secretly enjoying my relatively fluid-free floors I knew I was fighting a losing battle. We finally decided on a rescue dog for our First Family Pet. My only rules were no puppies and no pitbulls. But of course it would be another animal to mess up my plans.

We have mice. Like, a lot of them. That forest the house backs up to that we found so charming when we moved in? Vermin paradise. I have shelled out $600 to Orkin over the past year to try and get rid of them but just when it seems we have them licked (not literally, that would be disgusting), a trap snaps and we’re right back to where we’re started. We have tried everything to get rid of the mice. Except one thing: “Get a cat,” advised everyone on Facebook. Apparently even if they’re not good mousers, just their feline smell can keep the mice away. Plus, you know, they’re cuddly and cute and our family wanted a pet anyhow. And with 5 bajillion homeless cats in the US (I made that number up, don’t correct me) how hard could it be to find one that would be a good fit?

Hard.

We went to our local pet adoption faire (yes, with an e) last Saturday only to be told – and not even in a nice way – that we certainly could not pay an exorbitant amount of money to adopt one of their rescue cats. The first problem was the kids. The lady in charge (hereafter referred to simply as Ms. Meanie) informed me that cats should not have to deal with kids under the age of 6. This surprised me because I’m guessing that cats have associated with toddlers ever since there have been cats and toddlers. We had a cat when my sister was born and she played with it and loved it for years. I can understand some cats not doing well with small kids but all cats? Really? The second problem was that I told her about the mice issue. Ms. Meanie got even huffier. “That’s ABUSE!” she spluttered. “We’re not adopting our cats out to be work animals! We want them to have a loving home!” It was all I could do not to roll my eyes and answer, “Lady, I have a job. My husband has a job. That cat wants a warm house and food and toys? It can have a job too.” Plus, don’t cats like chasing mice? I’m not saying we’d withhold food or punish it or even be mad at it if it didn’t help with the mice – the only danger a cat would be in at our house is maybe getting too loved on – but if the cat did help with the mouse problem, even if just with its presence, I’d be forever grateful. Is it such a bad thing to want a cat to help with mice?

So now we’re stuck. Do we keep trying to find a cat? And if so, what do we look for and where do we get it? Or do we go with the original plan of the dog? And if so, what kind? Help – I need pet advice! Any of you have small kids? What pets have worked the best for you? Any other mouse-deterring suggestions?

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